Last week (May 6 and 7th to be precise) a crack team of ski adventurers was assembled with the sole purpose of scouting one of the three future Spearhead Hut sites. The Macbeth site sits on the south shoulder of its namesake mountain, looking west down the Fitzsimmons Creek drainage and south towards the gnarled and broken Fitzsimmons Glacier. The proposed site is the middle of the locations, flanked by a ridgetop location next to Mt Pattison, and the proposed new location of the Russet Hut.
The Macbeth site is stunning for its views of the lesser-visited peaks of the “back-end” of the Spearhead Range. Iago, Fitzsimmons, Overlord, Macbeth, and a short ski tour away from the tantalizing visage of Cheakamus Mountain. We’re here to spend 24 hours soaking up this end of the Spearhead, document our surroundings, and ideally ski a few things too.
We arrive at the Macbeth site late in the day, and quickly throw our overnight gear in the rocks, heading out to catch some evening magic light and climb Mt Iago. The peak is easily summited from the Iago Glacier. Harder snow on the final ridge forces us to take our skis off and bootpack for a few metres, but a skis-on ascent would be no problem most of the time. We soak in the evening light, and drop off the top into the West Face. Steep hardpack turns off the top lead into softer snow below, and we all pick our way down in golden light (except Andre, as the clouds roll in right as he’s about to drop. Sorry buddy!).
We make it back to camp for dark, firing up stoves to melt water and get dinner going. Anthony proceeds to lose one of the critical tent poles somewhere into the dark void, but otherwise the evening is relaxed. After-dinner scotch and cigars really take our winter camping game up a few notches, even if one of our tents is a floppy one-pole mess.
The next day dawns cold and clear, and we go straight to the Iago Glacier and get some sweet pow schnoodling shots for the Hut Project media efforts. Once that’s wrapped up we turn our eyes to the first prize of the day: Cheakamus Mountain. It’s a huge day from the resort, and off the main route of the Spearhead Traverse, and thus is less-frequented than the other peaks in the Range. It’s a bit of a travesty, really, as it has multiple beauty ski lines off its aesthetic ridgelines.
A quick corn descent onto the Diavolo Glacier, and we schuss towards Cheakamus. The climb up is fun, skinning up the glaciated flanks of the peak. We’re able to keep skis on until the last few metres, where we gain the ridge and climb up the airy stance. The south face of the mountain drops off thousands of feet down into the Cheakamus River valley, and offers great views of the McBride Range. A quick tag of the summit, and we savour perfect pow turns on the North Face. It’s almost shocking how good the snow is, considering it’s May.
The night’s cold temps are helping to preserve the solar aspects, and we head up to Fitzsimmons via a south-west facing couloir. The North Face of Fitz is arguably the crown jewel of descents in the Spearhead, and we are giddy with our luck, hitting it in perfect conditions. The descent is not with out excitement though, as Chris, the last man down, happens upon a patch of ice, skis back into his sluff, and is taken for a full-length tumble of the face. A few scratches and a strained knee (and a horribly bruised ego) is all he comes out the bottom with, minus his skis, which are firmly planted at the source of his fall, all the way up the face. Eric and I boot back up the face to retrieve skis, and are rewarded with another lap down in the dreamy conditions.
Gear and skier reunited, we make our way back to the hut site, blown away by the potential of this part of the Spearhead Range. Many skiers pass through here on the Traverse, but most of them head down and hammering. We feel pretty lucky to be able to have leisurely picked off a few of the crown jewels of the Spearhead, and can only imagine the endless possibilities that would open up with the arrival of the proposed Spearhead Huts.
The A-Team: Anthony Bonello, Chris Christie, Andre Charland, Eric Hjorleifson, Joe Schwartz